Episode 59 - The Essentials of Personal Branding
Personal Branding is something you often don’t really think about. Most people just think if they do their jobs well, that’s enough. That’s their personal brand. And isn’t that enough?
No. Not if you’re someone who wants to grow in your industry…’cos guess what? There are a lot of people who do a good job doing what you do.
So what makes you special? That’s an excellent question and the one I intend to help you answer.
Great brands know what they stand for, tell people consistently and continuously evolve to changing consumer needs. And that goes for you too.
In this episode, you’re going to learn how personal branding can transform you from being a run-of-the-mill commodity to being a sought-after asset without having to spend any time transforming your performance.
Disclaimer: Some of the content and information mentioned in this episode might no longer be applicable. This includes references to specific links, courses, or programs. As a result, all the links mentioned will now redirect you to our current website. There, you’ll find up-to-date information, resources, and exciting new content to support your journey. We appreciate your understanding and unwavering support.
Hello there and welcome, my friends. It’s great to have you here. I’m Mel Savage, your host today of The Career Reset podcast, where I am focused on helping you high-achieving ambitious people get the career success that you deserve.
That’s what I am all about. And I want to help you do it with a lot less drama. The world is so full of drama right now, that I want less. I don’t know about you. That’s my focus these days. And if I can help you do that in your career, all the better.
Today, we’re talking about personal branding. Personal branding is something that so many people don’t think about at all. And whether you think about it or not, I want you to know, you have a personal brand. It’s there, whether you like it or not. Whether you pay attention to it or not, you have a personal brand, and people are saying things about you. There is a great quote from Jeff Bezos, I don’t want to butcher it. So I’m just taking a minute here. But it’s something like your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Whether you are managing your brand or not managing your brand, people are saying stuff about you when you’re not in the room. This is not a podcast that’s going to be dedicated to trying to control what people say about you. This is a podcast that’s dedicated to helping you figure out what you want to be known for and working towards that all the time. There are a lot of benefits to doing that and I’m going to talk about those benefits. It’s worth your time.
If you’re someone who does a job that is not super specialized, unless you have a job where you are one of a million people who can do it, then you need to work on your personal brand. There are a lot of VPs of marketing out there and VPs of whatever department or whatever field out there. Directors have this and managers have that. So your personal brand is something that can give you a competitive edge in the field where you are looking for a job, where you work, and where you’re competing. Let’s just talk about this for a second.
I think it is so important to succeed if your goal is to achieve career success. And as I say faster, with less drama, then personal branding needs to be in your toolkit of things that you do. But most people don’t do it. They think, I’m showing up, I’m doing the best I can at my job, and I am all in on doing my job well. And because of that, they let their friendships go. They don’t reach out to people. They forget about relationships. They forget about networking, and one of the other things they forget about is building their own brand.
People will say to me, Isn’t it enough that I just do my job? Well, no. It is enough to keep your job for a time but it’s not going to be a guarantee that you get to keep your job forever. And it’s certainly not going to help you get the success you want faster. Doing your job, as I always say, your job is not your career. Your job is one of the strategies in your career plan. I cannot say that enough. I have a podcast talking about the five elements of your career plan. You should go check that out. I actually think there are six. I didn’t include a six bonus in that one.
But I would say that it’s like your job is one–relationships, the key achievements that you want to be highlighting your mindset, your brand, and your support network is another one, too. Like how you manage your support network.
I want you to know, like a great brand, if you think about any great brand that has a meaning for you. Whether it’s the place you go for coffee, the yoga pants you wear, the running shoes that you buy, or your favorite streaming services, whatever it is. Whatever brand you love, those brands are great because you know what they stand for, because you know what to expect from them, because what they offer aligns with what you need. Those brands have decided purposefully, not by accident, to write what they want to stand for. They tell people consistently and continuously at every single touchpoint. And as the consumer needs change as their client’s needs change, they evolve.
That’s really what we’re going to be talking about today. How do you establish what you want your brand to be and make it authentically you? Have it aligned with what your stakeholders need? How do you continuously evolve to changing consumer needs? That is going to be a big part of how you build success in your career. Otherwise, there is nothing to separate you.
What you want to have happen is that people say, I’m looking for someone. I’m looking for a VP of marketing who does this, this, and this, and you want them to say, Oh, I know that person. That’s Mel. I want her. You got to meet Mel. That’s what you want people to say. When they’re thinking of ABC requirements, your name comes up. That’s what you want to decide. What are those ABC things that you’re going to stand for, that you’re going to be specializing in, and how do you tell people about it?
Because that’s how you get the competitive edge in your field. Otherwise, you’re just a commodity. So that’s what we’re going to be covering today. I’m going to keep it quick. If I can, I’m really trying to get this data in 20 minutes. If I target 20 minutes, I get it to 30 minutes. That’s sort of my MO. That’s part of my brand.
Let’s go back to personal brand. We talked about why brands are important and why they work. At the core of it, I would say that people just really want things easy. People are lazy. We all want the path of least resistance. That’s human behavior. We like top-of-mind solutions. When I say top-of-mind solutions, sometimes I say that and I didn’t know it was marketing jargon, but basically, you want something like solutions that we can think of right away.
We don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about stuff. We don’t want to spend a lot of time worrying about stuff we want. Our solutions cater to us and are at the top of our minds so that when we have a problem, we know how to solve it very quickly. So if I need a cup of coffee that’s always hot and has a rich taste and is the right price and is convenient, I know on my way to work If I’m commuting, then I know where to get that.
If I want yoga pants that I’m going to wash probably at least two or three times a week, and they’re not going to fall apart and they’re not going to pill and I’m willing to pay for it and you can’t see through them, who am I going to go to? And there’s responsibly made. That kind of thing. Who am I going to go to? I need to know what those things are so I don’t have to worry about them. That’s why brands work. They help people be lazy and aligned with what they need so I don’t need to think about it, and you serve the needs that I have.
In your case with your personal brand, you need to help people, you need to figure out what your stakeholders need. You need to tell people, and when I say tell people, there are lots of ways to tell them. It’s not just posting on social media. There are lots of ways to tell people. And if you can do this effectively, then it’s going to be not only easier for you to find a job because people will be coming to you, eventually. People will know your value, even in the job you have right now.
They’re going to understand why they have you there versus just you doing your job. They’re going to be talking about, Oh, no. We need someone like her because she does ABC. No one does ABC like she does. That kind of stuff. It’s going to lead to better earnings and it’s going to help you really focus your skill development. Because what ends up happening is we try to be good at all the things on our development plan.
There’s this list of 20 checkboxes our employers have that they want us to be good at all the things. This is your way of saying, No, I’m good at these things. I’m going to be satisfactory at those things. But these are the things that I’m really, really good at. And you’re going to focus your skill development there. Because as you know, as you get up, you can find people who are going to be really, really good at the places where you’re just average. You don’t need to be above average and everything. There are people out there who can be above average at the things that you’re just average at.
You need to start thinking about what are your above-average skills that you’re going to continue putting all your effort into developing and this is what gives you the competitive edge. If you want to be VP of sales, operations marketing, or whatever it is that you’re doing, you need to understand what makes you special. If you’re a VP of sales, then maybe it’s like, the person who everybody loves talking to who is great at selling a particular type of product, and sells more of it than anyone else, for instance. Or maybe it’s like, you’re the salesperson who not only sells a particular kind of product, and everybody loves talking to you but is also great at developing young talent as well. What are the things that you are amazing at?
Take a moment and just think about your favorite brands. I was thinking this morning about what can we talk about that everybody would align with, and I was thinking of coffee, because I’m Canadian, and we love our coffee here. But if you think about all the different coffee brands out there, or cafe brands out there, there’s Starbucks, and it depends on where you live. If you’re in Europe, it’s different than Australia, it’s different than the United States, it’s different than Canada.
But Starbucks, Costa, Gloria Jean’s, McCafe, Tim Hortons, which is the huge coffee brand here in Canada, the local cafe on your high street, all of those things, and all those different places to get coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts, I think is another one in the US. If you think about where you get your coffee, why do you get it there? Is it the product itself? The quality of the product? Is it the amount of choices you have? Is it the social status and the particular language that you get to learn to use if you’re the half-caf, decaf, sugar-free, vanilla, extra hot, blah, blah, blah, and you feel special versus at Tim Hortons, where you just say, I’ll have a double, double. That sort of thing.
It’s a whole different experience. That’s part of the experience, and it’s part of the status. Is it the convenience of the brand? Is it the price point? Is it the personality? Do you like homegrown socially responsible things versus expensive versus I’m getting the best coffee at the best deal? There are all these different reasons why you choose your coffee brand. And that works for people, too. It works for people, too. And you know this inherently because if we think about the people who work for you right now, there are things that really stand out to you about those people. Those people probably aren’t necessarily purposeful about those things that stand out, those qualities that they have. But what if they were?
What about what people think about you right now and your qualities? Do you want those to be what people think about you? Are there other things you would prefer to have people think about you? What are those things? How do you how do you build rapport? How do you build knowledge and awareness of those things about you? You can control that. You can get purposeful about that. It’s not just an ancillary thing that happens based on the work that you do. You can decide what you want your brand to stand for, and then work towards building that brand. That is hugely powerful that you have control of that. You get to look at your market.
Let’s say your market is VP marketing, or director of marketing and a certain category. Maybe you’re a packaged goods company, like FMCG in Europe, or CPG in North America, and you’re in marketing, what separates you from all the other marketing directors out there? Why are you special? What is it about you that you can deliver? And if you understand what your market looks like, which is like CPG companies, and what they’re looking for, how can you stand apart?
I don’t know about you. But when I was hiring people, hiring people is a big job. Whatever I was about to hire someone, or I needed to hire someone, or I knew I had to let someone go, and I had to replace that role, you know what makes life a lot easier? It’s when you can just say to someone, Do you know someone who does this, this, and this? Do you know someone who’s good at managing people and working in a really chaotic environment and solving problems and whatever it is, or really smart strategically, or able to think innovatively, or whatever it is that you need in this job? That would be that would be my first go-to.
First, I would look within my company and say, Is there anyone who fits this bill? Because that’s what you want. You want the path of least resistance. Then I would reach out to my network and say, Does anybody know anybody who does ABC? Do you know a coach who helps people really reach their potential? I have these high-potential employees, but they’re stuck. They’re getting in their way on a few things. Do you know a coach who can really help people put them over the top and get them where they need to go? Yes, I know, Mel. She does that. She helps people be successful. She helps people achieve their career goals. She helps people really be successful in their roles. That’s her. You got to call her. That’s what I want people to say. What do you want people to say about you? This is something to think about.
I have written literally hundreds of marketing plans in my life. And there’s all different ways to do it, so many different ways to do it. Generally speaking, you want to have an intersection of a few different things. There’s all these different things. You could have an intersection of the market versus what your product benefits are. You could have an intersection of your consumer versus your brand, versus the benefits of your product. There are different ways to do it.
When it comes to personal branding, I always say the intersection is your goal, meaning what are the needs of the audience, essentially. If you want to be the COO of a company, what are the needs of a COO? Basically, this is your marketplace. What are the needs of this job, basically, that you’re looking at, or the needs of COOs in tech companies, for instance? If you could get more specific, the better. So you want to be able to really understand the elements that make up your goal. What is the audience looking for based on the goal that you have?
Then there’s how that intersects with you and with you, I always suggest that people look at not only their skill sets, their key strengths, their key achievements, etc but also their values. What is it that you value? I think those things are really important because let’s just go into that first one, which is understanding your values. Your values are foundational to how you work. Your values are, I always say how you do things versus what you know how to do.
Think about a brand. Think about the values of a brand, the values of a Tim Hortons brand, which is a Canadian Coffee Company, sort of a homegrown Canadian Coffee Company. Tim Horton himself was a hockey player, which is big in Canada and the whole hockey thing. That’s a stereotype here. In the values of the Tim Hortons brand, try to mirror the values of Canadians: trustworthy, nice, welcoming, helpful, and easy to get along with. Those are some of the values that the Tim Hortons brand has.
I don’t really know what their brand values are. But as a consumer, that’s what I would say versus a Starbucks, which I would say is a bit more elitist, special for the discerning coffee drinker. It’s high-quality, artisan, when you think about some of the baked goods there, that sort of thing. It’s pretty special, higher end, not for everyone, even though there’s a Starbucks in every corner, but you know what I’m saying. It is very different than your cop local coffee shop type of environment, Starbucks, Costa, or Gloria Jean’s, for instance. Those are some of the different values that your brand can have. What are your values?
But if your values, for instance, are about nurturing people, being in service, honesty, creativity, or family, how do you integrate those things into how you do your job? Which ones of your values do you want to integrate into how you do your job, and how does it show up in how you do your job? I always think it’s really, really important for people to have the same values at work and at home if it might show up differently. But you are one person, you are not two different people.
The more you can be the same person when you’re at home versus at work, the easier your life gets. So understanding what your values are and who you want to be as a human being, and knowing how you bring that to what you do at work versus how you show up at home, that’s how you stay authentic. I hear that all the time. Like, My company wants me to be something different. I’m not that person. They want me to do things that aren’t authentically me. Well, who are you? Do you know how you want to show up? Do you know how to have that conversation about what you will and won’t do? And why? Or how you can say, Well, I understand you want me to do the job this way. But this is who I am. Here’s how I would do it in my style. Do you even know the answer to that? Can you even have that conversation? Understanding what your values are is really, really important, and then leaning into those is so important.
There’s this great quote, I wish I knew who said it originally because I’ve heard it from so many people. But this was true. This is when we talked about entrepreneurs and selling yourself as an entrepreneur, or as any brand, really. Love me or hate me, there’s no money in the middle. If you try to please everybody all the time and be everything to everyone, then you’re just like vanilla milk toast, nothing special. But if you stand out in a few areas, and you really lean into those, and you lean into who you are, regardless of whether it pleases everyone or not, that’s where people really understand your value. And then you find yourself in a job where those values are leveraged to their very best. People know what they’re going to get with you and they’re buying into that.
I always say like, I’m not saying be extreme. I’m saying don’t be afraid to be who you are. And don’t be afraid to have some people not like that about you. It was interesting when I first joined McDonald’s, I am an outspoken person. I have very strong opinions when I’m working and I have lots of crazy ideas and very creative and try to shake things up a little bit in how we do things and they love that about me. They hired me for that.
They’re like, We need you to fix this, this and this. We have these big problems, we haven’t been able to solve them. And that was kind of what I would do. I would go in and I would see this impossible problem and I would find a fix and it would ruffle some feathers but I would always find a way to smooth it over and I would make it work. They love that about me.
Then five years in, ruffling feathers and I’m doing the thing that hired me to do and they’re like, Oh you know, we’re really tired of you ruffling feathers. Can you smooth it over a little bit? Can you just smooth out those rough edges? And for a while, I did. I thought they needed me to be somebody else and I tried to please them. But that never works, my friends. You need to lean into who you are, what you’re really good at, and what makes you special.
If that means your company doesn’t necessarily need that from you anymore, then go find another company that does. Changing yourself to please your company never worked. So understanding your brand, the values you have, and how you do your best work is really important. That’s a key, one of those intersection points that you want to understand. One of them is your goals, one of them is your values, and another one is your skill set.
Obviously, if you’re going to be a VP of Marketing, let’s say, you’re going to have a lot of things that you are average at. But what are those super special superpowers that you have? They can be natural abilities sometimes. They can be learned things sometimes. But what is it that you’re really great at? It can be specific things that are qualifications of the role. Or it can be specific things that you can do really well if being a fixer, for instance, or being a relationship builder, that sort of thing. Or it can be like, Oh, she’s great at writing marketing plans. She’s really creative. She knows everybody in the industry. She’s a great people developer. Those are some core things that are in the job description.
But whatever it may be, there are some things beyond that, like how do you pull those things together? She is a fixer. She knows how to not only solve the problem creatively but bring everybody on board, create consensus, and drive the change forward in a way where everyone’s really happy it’s happening. That’s her thing. Maybe that’s what you want to be known for. I’m just making it up. How can you align your skills? What are those big things that you were really great at doing and building your story around those?
Like I said, doesn’t have to be natural abilities. But it can be the story that you tell about yourself and what you can do. Maybe you’re just a super inspiring leader and you get people to bring up the best in all these people, in all the teams. How do you do it? Think about that. You want to think about what those things are, and really lean into a few of those. Not all of them, don’t tick all the boxes. But what are those two or three really awesome things that you do?
Think about it again like the whole coffee thing. Some people have the best cups, some people have the best freshness, the best bean, the best service. And what is the best service? There’s fast service, there’s convenience of locations, there’s friendly service, there’s customized service. There are always different kinds of services that you can have.
Think about you. What makes you special based on the needs of the marketplace? The marketplace in this case is the category that you work in, the type of people, the type of companies that you’re going for, what those kinds of companies look for in people, the kinds of problems they need to solve, the size of those companies. What is all of that? What can you bring to them in your way, essentially? Those are the kinds of things that you want to solve.
The last piece of it really is outside of the intersection points. How are you continuously evolving against those same principles and continuously understanding what people need and their stakeholders? How do your skills serve those things, or how your skills can slightly evolve? They don’t have to be a complete sea change but slightly evolve to continuously serve the needs of those people in your way.
When I talk about how you tell people things, or how you let people know once you decide what your brand is, how do you let people know? How do people find out this thing about you? The very first thing is you need to create proof. Meaning, how do you start to be that brand in the job that you have now? How are you integrating your special skills and values and all that kind of stuff right into what kind of leader you are, how you do your job every day, and all of that kind of stuff?
How is it showing up the conversations you have, the presentations you give, the one-on-ones you have with people, the conversations you have with your vendors? How are you integrating all of that of your brand into every single touchpoint? Touchpoints also include external touchpoints, like industry networking, speeches that you give in the industry, social media posts, how you comment on other people’s social media posts, how you network, the relationships you build, and how you nurture those relationships. Those are all touchpoints.
The conversations you have about yourself when you meet people, what do you say about yourself? What’s your elevator speech? These are all things that you need to think about. Your CV, how you interview, and the answers to those questions. These are all going to be embedded in your brand. So it’s really important to understand your brand and use all the different touchpoints every time you step out of your house and you do something career-oriented, work-oriented, or relationship-oriented. How is your brand showing up in those places? That’s what you need to think about.
Because it’s not just about writing a career plan. I always say anybody can write a career plan. I help people do that all the time. We build quick 90-day plans for people when we work together as part of the coaching program, depending on what they’re working on. But when you’re building your overall career plan, it’s a big deal. It’s not just about what I want to achieve in the next year, it’s who am I. How am I achieving it? How am I growing myself? And also, what is my personal brand? And how am I getting out of my own way?
There are so many things involved, and really, not only building but executing against a really solid career plan to help you get to your goals faster with less drama. Having a coach and having a support tool to help you do that is critical to keep you on track. So if you’re someone who’s interested in that, then yes, please come book a free career strategy session with me. We’ll talk about the program, we’ll talk about you, where you are, where you want to go, where the gaps are, and how working with me can help you do that. You can book that session at melsavage.com/chat. That’s a free 45-minute session. Okay, my friends.
In summary today, personal brands are so important. So important to differentiate yourself, so important to have people thinking about you when they need someone, either to solve a problem or lead a task force or for a job or whatever it is. When you build your personal brand, you need to get purposeful about it, you want it to one align with who you are, like what are your values? Who do you serve? What do you stand for? What do you know? How do you do your job in a way that aligns with you and creates a brand for you?
Think about the brands that you love. What are their values? And think about what you want that to be for you. What special skills do you have, not just the skills that are the boxes that you need to be ticked in the job function? But it’s kind of like, what secret sauce do you have? What are your superpowers that really bring added value? How can you lean into those? Really leaning into those.
Make sure that as you’re building, you’re selecting the values of who you are and the superpowers that you are aligning it to who needs to know like, who are these stakeholders? In what industry? What do they value? What size companies? What are they looking for? You really want to understand how those things intersect. You always want to think about how the needs of that cohort are changing and how you can continuously evolve your own skills to deliver what that cohort needs in your way. It’s so important and then telling people about it, obviously, through the work you do. Every single touchpoint every single opportunity in your career plan is so important.
That is what I have for you today, my friends. I did not make it to 20 minutes again. I can’t help myself. One day, I will. I will talk about less. In the meantime, I hope you have a great week and I will challenge you this week to pick one thing. Just pick one thing about yourself that you think could be part of your brand. Lean into that one thing this week and every single thing that you do and you will start to see the difference. You’ll see it starting to happen. That’s it.
Have a great week everyone. Talk to you soon. Bye for now.